The Atithi

The Oberoi, New Delhi

A guest in most Indian homes, even today, is referred to as Atithi, one who arrives at the doorstep unexpectedly. The Sanskrit word literally means one who is without an arrival date, resonating at a deeper level the inevitable and profound truth of Impermanence, which we perceive through the ever changing nature of Time, as the Past, Present and Future.

The host greets the guest, who has just arrived, with joined hands in salutation saying Namaste, conveying a feeling of respect, humility and oneness. The guest is visualized as the reflection of (one’s own) ‘Self’, in essence, whose true nature is held as divine, effulgent and knowing. This manifest, as the guest is received with affection and dignity befitting a higher being. The scripture elegantly says ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. Truly the guest is like the divinity arriving at your station for a short respite in this long journey called life.

Three layers of overlapping screens, collectively, personify our physical body and the way we mentally engage with the three facets of time. The outer two represent the past and the future, while the third in the middle, as the present. Multiple and varying polygonal shapes are reminiscent of our entire body`s building blocks of cells and tissues, the way it is biologically engineered as a tangible, yet, altering form.

Hand inlaid flowers created from the traditional crafts of Agra, in three shades, of Lapis blue, Agate yellow & Shell white, selectively placed within the polygons, are floral offerings to the guest. They also symbolize early morning, midday & dusk.

The reverse of each flower, upon turning, is a unique mirror, made out of a thousand year old process, undisclosed till this day, from a small town called `Aranmula` in Kerala. It is a special alloy, hand cast and hand burnished to a magical unsullied shine, traditionally created as an offering to Lord Vishnu. Gazing upon the mirror is reminiscent of the guest being a reflection of the self.

Within one simple act of welcoming the guest, there is an enactment of this sacred Indian view of `Atithi`.

project - Atithi, The Oberoi, New Delhi

completed in - 2018

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